Monday, November 30, 2015

Just About Everything

Marathon, FL

Hang on to your hats. Even if you're not much interested in science, I propose to fascinate you and captivate you with a great story. This is not something you can read elsewhere, as far as I know. It has to do with time, space, energy and matter. In other words, everything. It is not hard science but close to it (I'll explain). It is not religion, but close to it (I'll explain). It is the kind of thing that pop science really loves; that's the kind of science you might see on a TV documentary. I'll refer to a couple of equations, but I won't show them. I promise, you do not need much science or math to follow this story.

I'll begin with time. What is time? I like the way Wikipedia defines time.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Urge to Panic

Marathon, FL

When driving a car, or flying a plane, or when commanding Tarwathie, I like to think that I'm not prone to panic.  Even when things are dire, it is best to keep one's head calm.  I wish I could do the same with my Internet connection.

In case you don't already know, I'm heavily addicted to the Internet. I can't even count the number of times every day that I contact the net, or the number of hours I spend online.

A few weeks ago, while en-route from Green Cove Springs to Cape Canaveral, my phone quit working.  When on the boat, my phone provides the WiFi signal to all our other devices.  I felt the bile of panic swiftly rising in my throat.  What would I do?   Well, I was able to repress the panic because we were going to the PCYC which has WiFi, after that we were going to Vero Beach were there are multiple places for me to access WiFi.

I also got Dave to mail my my backup phone, which I gave to him to use as his backup.  Yes, I'm an indian giver.   I also purchased an extra phone battery and a simple $7 device that charges Samsung phone batteries outside of the phone.  We were back in business.

When approaching Marathon by sea last week, I turned on my phone.  It had a good signal.  I tried to turn on the WiFi using the FoxFi phone app that I've been using for years.  It didn't work.  "Oh No."   I suspected that the problem might be local to Marathon Verizon, because the thing had just worked OK in FMB.  But I also worried that something had expired or that Verizon changed the rules.

That same day, I phoned Verizon to complain.  They weren't any help.  But they did offer to sell my Verizon's WiFi hotspot feature for an additional $30 month.  To have signed up right then and there, would have been a panicked response.  With great difficulty, I resisted that.  I though that Verizon might introduce "malfunctions" like this from time to time, specifically to panic people like me to sign up for expensive options.

I did manage to get FoxFi to connect to my laptop via a USB tether.  That worked fine.  But the iPads were out of luck.  I said, I won't panic until I get to test the WiFi in Miami or Key West.  I still suspect a local problem.

Now, a week later, things are much brighter.  I figured out how to make FoxFi work with Bluetooth as well as WiFi, and as well as by USB tether.  Also, I just rechecked FoxFi with WiFi using Verizon-Marathon; IT WORKED!  The local problem had cleared itself.

If I had panicked and signed up for the $30/month service from Verizon, I probably would have never investigated the free FoxFi solution better and would have never know that it works OK in several modes.   That would have cost us $360 per year.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Flip Flopping on Florida Anchoring Rights

Marathon, FL

Long-time readers know that I've written several times about the never ending battle between boaters and  homeowners who want to restrict anchoring.   It happens in Vermont and every other state, but it is most intense here in Florida.   Heretofore, us boaters have been united in our opposition to restrictions on our rights; and we have been mostly successful.   But now, I see reason for us to flip flop on the issue.

The reason came from a news story.  I read that entrepreneurs in the Fort Lauderdale/Miami region have started buying old boats which they anchor and then rent out as "apartment yachts."   Considering the sky high rents for regular apartments, that could be very attractive to tenants and very profitable to landlords.

At first, the story sounded amusing.  But then I remembered the years after 2004/2005 when Florida was hit by several hurricanes.   There were thousands of boats damaged by the hurricanes that the insurance companies were anxious to declare as total losses so they could get them off their books.  Many of them could still float, and were cosmetically fine below decks.  They could be bought as salvage for mere pennies on the dollar.

Now, imagine the next big hurricane to hit Florida creating a new batch of salvaged boats.   The entrepreneurs can buy up all of them, and rent them out as apartment yachts.  We boaters will find that all of our favorite anchorages are full with these boats, leaving no room at all for cruisers or transients.   If that happens, I expect that boaters will lead the charge on anchoring laws.  If we are smart, we'll flop now, ahead of the fact.

One proposal above all others seems to address the problem while imposing minimum intrusion on cruiser's rights.  That is restricting the time any boat can anchor in one spot to one week.  I'm going to start backing that proposal right away. I urge you to consider doing the same.

p.s. Two questions about apartment yachts.

  1. Where will they land their dinghies?   The landlords could provide launch/water taxi service to their tenants, perhaps for an added fee.
  2. Does a landlord become a waterlord when he rents an apartment yacht? :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Picture of the Year

Marathon, FL

Rush rush rush over to APOD to see the most stunning photograph of the year.   Click here.

Out of respect for the photographer, Daniele Boffelli, I did not copy the photo here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bernie Sanders and Social Democrats

Marathon, Florida

Presidential candidate, and fellow Vermont resident, Bernie Sanders gave a big speech last week about what socialism means. I think that Libby and I should share our experiences as Americans living in the socialist paradise Sweden under a Social Democratic regime in the 70s and 80s..

Yes, the taxes were high. On my $42,000 salary, I had to pay 60% total income tax, and 83% marginal tax. On the money left over after taxes, we had to pay 26% sales tax on all purchases. Ouch.

But there were financial benefits too. We had a mortgage on our house from the Swedish State that had a negative interest rate. That's right, after the first month, instead of a payment notice, they sent me a check. That blew my mind. 

I also got to rent a slip for my boat at the city marina for only $1.50 per year! 

One day a check (called barnbigraget) arrived in the mail on day with a notice, “Buy some new school clothes for your children.” Libby was deeply offended by that, so she sent the check back. Our Swedish friends were horrified. They said, “You can't send the check back.” 

In a nutshell, the essence of socialism is to tax heavily, but then to return most of the money in the form of benefits that the government thinks you should have.

But to enjoy those benefits, you must conform. Food and obesity was unfavored so food costs were very high. Outdoor exercise was favored and subsidized. Boating outdoor activity was favored and subsidized, motorcycle outdoor activity is not favored and penalized. Government committees in Stockholm decide what to subsidize and penalize.

Yes they did have universal free health care, but it had flaws. It was biased against immigrants. If you felt sick and called the number to request a doctor's appointment, you talked with an agent with a script that somehow always seemed to end with “Take two aspirin. You don't need a doctor.” Native Swedes, masters of the language and the culture, would cut off the script reader at the start. They would say, “Shut up. Cut the crap and make the appointment,” and it worked. Immigrants struggling with the language had a very hard time doing that. You were also not entitled to second opinions. If you doctor said that you are not ill, it could be nearly impossible to obtain permission to consult a second doctor, and private doctors were almost nonexistent.  People desperate for second opinions flew to England at their own expense.

To us, the dominance of group welfare over individual welfare was sometimes jarring. For example, there is a Swedish word, lagom, that means “good enough but not too good.” Swedes aspire to lagom whereas Americans aspire to excellence (lagom rejects excellence). We were shocked to learn that the schools deliberately neglected the smartest kids so that they could not excel over the average. We were also shocked to hear on the news one day that one of the hospitals was closing for the vacation month because they couldn't find volunteers to work over the vacation period. Patients were told “If you are still alive in August, you are welcome back.” I am not making that up. The Swedes valued their family vacation collective rights more than the rights of the small number of sick patients. The balance between collective versus individual rights is very different in a social democratic system.

But here's the real crux. Libby first put her finger on it. One day at home, she and I were discussing socialism. Libby said, “The most objectionable part is the loss of freedom. Government committees in Stockholm decide how I must run my life, and I resent that.” The next day at work, I mentioned Libby's statement to my friends. They all said, “We have no problem with that. We have total confidence that those people in Stockholm would make exactly the same decisions we would if we sat on the committee.” “Aha,” I thought, “That's the secret; a homogeneous society where everyone thinks alike.” In America where we are very (very very) diverse in our views, values and aspirations. That would never work.

Since we left Sweden, much has changed for the worse. They realized that too high tax rates were counterproductive, so they cut the total and marginal taxes to roughly the same as here in the USA. Also, a wave of immigrants (Sweden is very generous in taking refugees.), have introduced a major heterogeneous element to the society; about 15% of the population. That strained the whole system to the breaking point. 

From what we learned listening to Radio Sweden news every weekday, the excellent schools have become crap, the excellent training for immigrants is trashed. The health care system has degraded so much that native Swedes are reportedly stampeding to buy private health care to avoid depending on the free system. In an infamous incident, it was revealed that Stockholm with 800,000 people sometimes has only two ambulances on duty. A man having a heart attack called 911, and was refused ambulance transport by the script readers.  They told him with only two ambulances, they were forced to prioritize and that he should walk to the hospital or take a taxi.  He died the next day. I interpret all that as evidence in support of the premise that socialism works only for extremely homogeneous societies where there is near unanimity in every issue, and nearly uniform spectrum of needs and values, as little as 15% dissimilar people crashed the whole system.

Europeans criticize the American health care system because money is so essential to access to the care.  But Radio Sweden reported that in today's Sweden having a doctor or hospital administrator friend was the key to access.  In the USA we call that kissing the ass of the powerful.  That is the socialist free health care system today.

So, in light of the above, I think that Bernie Sanders' proposals could never succeed in America. Instead of being homogeneous, Americans seem to be divided nearly 50-50 into increasingly polarized liberal-conservative world views. America is about as heterogeneous as is possible.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Marathon Yet Again

Marathon, FL

Well, the overnight sail was nice, and it feels like home returning to Marathon.  For the next 6 months, we may take some side trips, but this will be our base.

We are expecting a visit from Jen and her friend Anna in December.

The only problem with the trip was the excessivly dense fields of lobster traps.   In the dark, you can't see them or avoid them.  When it was my turn to go below and sleep, I could hear them thumping on the hull.   Three times (or was it four?) we snagged a pot and our speed dropped from 4.5 knots to 2.  Each time we were able to fix it by backing up at full speed for 100 meters.  

Once, Libby heard our propeller cutting up a foam buoy. I'm glad it didn't wrap around the shaft, but I worry that it may have scraped off our fresh new Never Wet.

By the way, if we did not succeed in getting rid of the pots by backing up, the only alternative is to dive in the water with a sharp knife in my teeth.  At least the water is warm down here.  But I wouldn't do that at night.

I guess, we will have to restrict our sailing in Florida Bay to daylight hours.

Friday, November 20, 2015

SV Once Again :-)

At Sea

26 13.090 N 081 53.449 W


It feels so good to use that tag "At Sea" again. It has been 6 months since the last time. I'm happy. Tarwathie is happy. Libby is delighted!

That's quite a turnaround. Only a few days ago our jib was out of service, our mainsail was out of service, and our chart plotter didn't work. It felt like we would never sail again. Since then:

  • I overhauled the jib furler. It works well for now.
  • I rigged an alternate place to attach the mainsheet after out traveler failed. It works well.
  • Libby located a "GPS module" in our spare parts bin to replace the failed module. I had completely forgotten that we had a spare. The chartplotter works well again. (But I'm still shopping for a more modern replacement.)

Our plan for today was to wait for weather. The forecast was for 5-10 SE until Sunday. We could just sit on the boat and do nothing for 48 hours waiting in Fort Meyers Beach or at Marco Island. We decided to motor to Marco today. Guess what we found when we got out there. THE WEATHER FORECAST WAS WRONG. That neve happened before (I say with deep sarcasm). Winds were E 15, perfect.


We are now sailing under jib, staysail and main. That's full sail. We are doing 5.7 knots. The Monitor self steering is in control. We'll be in Marathon Saturday morning.


Sure we aren't 100 miles out at sea, but it feels great anyhow. Actually. The Hawk Channel and Florida Bay are two of the finest and safest places in the whole world to sail. They are protected from Atlantic swells. The waters are shallow enough that we can drop anchor anytime if needed, and the winds are usually fair.


To whoever wished us "fair winds", thank you. Fair winds are what we got.


P.s The Stockholm Archipelago and the Finland Archipelago in mid June are another two of the finest places in the world to sail. I saw somewhere a magazine article The 7 Best Sailing Places in the World. It mentioned The Hawk Channel and Lake Champlain. We aren't world sailors, but that topic sounds like a great one for a future blog post.




Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Special Coffee Brew; Something in the Water?

Sarbucks, First Street, Fort Meyers, FL

The weather doesn't look favorable to leave for Marathon for next 50-60 hours.  Therefore, we decided to stop at the Fort Meyers Boat Basin overnight.  We've heard it mentioned favorably several times before.   It cost a more than I like ($1.80/foot with the Boat US discount.).

So what is there to do in downtown Fort Meyers?  Not much.  We went to the Edison/Ford estates before.  So here I am in Starbucks.

But wait, my vente Pike coffee isn't just Starbucks good, it is GREAT!.  Then, deja vu kicked in.  I searched the archives of this blog, and yes on 3/15/2010 Libby and I sat in this same Starbucks in Fort Meyers, complaining about how little there was to do in downtown Fort Meyers.  We sat at the same table where I am now, and I remember remarking that the coffee was the best coffee I ever tasted.  Is it possible that they do something unique in the Fort Meyers Starbucks?  That sounds unlikely.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ah, The Bloom of Youth

Labelle, Florida

Even as I lament the effects of age, we were presented with a live example of impetuous youth.  The vessel in the picture below pulled in beside Tarwathie.  As they approached I and another boater offered to help with their lines.

They had no lines ready.  Then I heard the girl say, "This is our very first time at a dock.  We didn't know we needed ropes."  Holy s***.  We got her to scramble and find two pieces of rotted clothes line; each about 5 feet long.  Fortunately, there was no wind or current, so the pilings held her in place while we got things sorted out.  Neither of them knew how to use a cleat, so we showed them how do to it.

It turns out that they are a sweet couple.  They bought that sailboat 6 days ago, and just started cruising.  They had never been on a sailboat before, and their knowledge of boating is nearly zero.

But they are learning.  Their first night at anchor in an un-sheltered place with strong winds was terrifying; but they survived.  They have been aground 3 times in 6 days, but they got themselves off without help from a tow boat.  Their tale was very reminiscent of our early days, when every day brought a new "opportunity to learn."  Those were great days.

Well, I donated some lines to them, and Libby donated advice and tips when they visited Tarwathie.  We also donated a cup of witch hazel for the poor girl who was covered with no-see-um bites.

But our best chuckle came when they told us about their dinghy.  It is an inflatable kayak with a hole in it.  To get the two of them ashore, one paddles furiously while the other pumps air furiously. OMG LMAO.

It is much too early to tell if this couple will transform themselves into experienced cruisers.  But as long as they stay away from The Gulf Stream, their chances of survival are very good.  No matter what the outcome, I'm sure they'll recount it to their grandchildren as the "time of our lives."

No matter how much amusement this couple provides for boaters, they are out there doing it while their contemporaries remain safe at home dreaming about doing it.  Join me in saying,  "We wish fair winds and following seas to the intrepid crew of Moondancer."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Things the Seller Won't Tell You About Boats

Okeechobee Waterway, Florida

If you plan on cruising some day, one of the first things you'll need to do is to buy and equip a vessel to suit your needs.  New or used, there are lots of things the salesman (or authors of cruising articles) will neglect to mention that are not obvious until you have the cruising experience.  Here are a few tips.

  1. The phrases blue-water, coastal-cruising, weekender, and day-sailor, describe classes of vessels.  The definitions of what those things mean are loose, and not universal.  But in general, most people cruising on the USA east coast will do best with a coastal-cruising type vessel.  

    Libby had her own ideas before we started in 2005.  She rated safety above all else, so we chose a blue-water boat.  Tarwathie, a Westsail 32, is famous for being probably the safest cruising vessel for two people ever made.  But Tarwathie's blue-water features mean that we sacrifice some conveniences.  Foremost, are the small cockpit that we can not enclose, and the lack of a swim platform.
  2. Tankage is of critical importance to cruising sailors.  By that I mean the capacity of fuel tanks and water tanks.  Daysail and weekend boats often have too small tanks.  How much do you need?  I would say 40 gallons of diesel and 80 gallons of fresh water minimum.

    You often see many cruising sailboats (including Tarwathie) carrying jerry jugs on the deck.  Sometimes many jugs.  Blue jugs for water, yellow for diesel, and red for gasoline.  That is a sign that the tankage on that vessel is inadequate to suit the captain.
  3. Size of your vessel.  For full freedom to cruise anywhere on the USA east coast, you must set certain maximums on critical dimensions.  If you exceed these dimensions, your freedom is reduced and your costs increased.  Even billionaires can't have full freedom with their too big megayachts.
  • LOA 45 feet.
  • Beam 14 feet.
  • Height of the mast+antennas 49 feet.
  • Draft 5.5 feet.
  • Sail area > ???

    Those most frequently caught by surprise are those with masts 63 feet or more who cannot travel the ICW in all conditions, and catamarans with beams more than 20 feet which can not be accommodated in many marina slips.  For example, today Tarwathie will pass under a RR bridge with 49.28 feet clearance.  90% of our cruising friends are unable to choose that route because they can't fit under that bridge.

    I'm unsure on the numbers for sail area.  Just remember that the motivation for making larger vessels Ketch or Yawl rigged is to reduce the maximum size of any one sail to make them easier for the crew to handle.
  1. The price of a new boat usually does not include canvas or davits. You need at least a dodger and a bimini.  Fully enclosed cockpits are highly desirable.  You need comfortable cockpit cushions.  These add-ons can cost many thousands of dollars unless you can make your own.
  2. Electronics.   Everyone knows about VHF radio, compass, and depth sounder.  Beginners sometimes don't appreciate the need for a chart plotter, SSB radio, and battery monitor.    They may also not understand that a TV and an AC suck down so much power, that you need to be connected to shore power to use them.
  3. Manufacturers of daysail and weekend boats, provide inadequate insulation and refrigerator systems.  If you only cruise two days at a time, you really don't care about the efficiency of your refrigeration.  It becomes a huge issue when you cruise full time.
  4. Access to your engine.  You should plan on needing to remove your engine for repair or replacement sometime during the life of your boat.  Some vessels are not designed for that, and they require that you destroy the decks and/or carpentry to do that.  Avoid them.
  5. Selection of a dinghy.  That is a very big subject.  Too big for me to discuss here.  But you need to research it.  I my opinion, the finest dinghy on the market today is a Portland Pudgy; but that costs nearly $5000!!! That is 500-800% more than you might plan to spend.
  6. Ways to get the dinghy on board for transport.  Davits are the most common choice.  But davits can be very expensive and not all of them are good.  Research that thoroughly.
  7. Visibility.  You need excellent visibility in all directions (360 degrees).  I chose this subject today because I saw a vessel that was blind to the rear because of his dinghy in the davit.  The captain could not see me approaching from behind.  A sharp helmsman frequency pivots 360 degrees to see what is around him in all directions.  If you can't see clearly, you are a hazard.
  8. An arch.  Arches form a combination of davit, and a place to mount solar panels and electronics.  Not all vessels (notably Westsail 32s) lend themselves to adding an arch.  A well built arch will also cost you thousands of dollars that you did not plan for in your budget.
  9. Deck storage.  You'll need places to store lines, and buckets, and mops, and fenders.  You'll probably need more than you anticipated.
  10. Propane:   Most cruising boats use propane stoves.  Tarwathie has a propane stove and a propane cabin heater.  Some people use alcohol.  That works well and it is very safe, but alcohol can be too expensive.   Propane is the only ubiquitous and affordable cooking fuel.

    Tarwathie carries two 20 pound propane bottles, of the type that can be filled or exchanged almost anywhere.   When one tank runs out, we have four months to find a place to buy more propane.  If you have only one bottle, then you'll be unable to cook until you get it refilled.

    Propane tanks must be stored safely.  A propane explosion on a boat can leave nothing bigger than a matchstick remaining.  You can use and store the propane safely, but propane safety is the most deadly serious technical issue you'll face.

    Propane safety means if the tank springs a leak that 100% of the propane leaks overboard and 0% leaks into the cabin.  (In real life, three times in 10 years I bought small propane tanks to use with a blow torch.  All three of them rusted out and leaked all their contents. I had stored them safely so there was no crisis, but if I hadn't we could be dead by now. The same applies to small propane bottles used for camp stoves and BBQ grills.  If you have one or more on board your boat, you must plan on it leaking.)

    The easiest way to safely store propane bottles is to strap them to a stanchion, but steel tanks corrode rapidly that way. You'll need an expensive aluminum or fiber composite tank immune to salt water corrosion.  Those cost a lot and can not be readily exchanged.   Many of them are too small because of the high cost and thus run out of fuel too soon.
I also advise new cruisers to not rush to spend their money so fast in the first months buying every imaginable gadget and convenience.  Not only do you empty your wallet, but you can clutter up the boat with things that you ultimate don't use very much, but will need your maintenance attention and conflict with simplifying your life.  The above list of 12 items are the exception to that rule.  Think carefully about those before starting your cruising life.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Weather Driven Choices

En Route, ICW

My friends Bob and Darrick are both weather junkies.  Every morning they check multiple source of weather reports.  I'm different.  I spend the same time scouring 8-12 news sources for articles that interest me.  I only look at the weather when I am thinking of departing.   I did that yesterday, thinking we would depart on Sunday.  Whoops, there will be too strong unfavorable winds Sunday-Wednesday next week.  There is not enough time to get to Marathon before that.

So, the next question is where to hang out for that 4 day window.  Vero?  Nah, we did our stuff in Vero (including a delightful afternoon and dinner with dear friends Walt and Pat).  Miami/Dinner Key?  Nah.  There is no place in the Lauderdale/Miami/Coconut Grove area that interests us.  Both of those options include a sail in the Hawk Channel which is a best-of-the-best sailing passages in the world.  Then I thought of a very different strategy.  We could cross Lake Okeechobee and spend a couple of night in Labelle, and two more in Fort Meyers.   The unfavorable winds are forecast for offshore only; the interior of Florida will have fine weather.

So, that's what we are going to do.  Yet again, cruisers make drastic changes in plans at the last moment; because of weather.   That is why cruisers are so reluctant to commit to any promise of future plans to other people.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dirty Birds

 Vero Beach, FL

The weather has been very hot.  That makes the best part of the day the hour before dawn.  I've been enjoying that hour out in the cockpit.  That's how I became aware of a little local drama and entertainment, that was not present in Vero in prior years.

  1. Step 1: Every day, just 10 minutes before dawn, a flock of starlings appears from the direction of the nearby mangrove island.   They seem to like to land on the standing rigging of sailboats in this harbor.  Not all the boats, but just a few.  As many as 100 might land on a boat.  (So far, not a single bird has chosen Tarwathie, thank goodness.)
  2. Step 2:  the designated scarecrows on the affected boats appear.  These are always females, probably the wives.   They shake the wires and shoo the birds away.  They birds leave for 10 minutes or so, then return.
  3. Step 3: 20 minutes after dawn, a flock of much larger crows appear and take the place of the starlings.  The crows are very noisy and objectionable.
  4. Step 4: Later in the morning, the wives reappear with buckets and mops to clean up what those dirty birds left behind.  Pity those vessels that have no one on board.
Given the way that starling populations seem to explode, this story has the potential of becoming much larger in the future.

It appears to be yet another case of animals (starlings) teaching animals (crows) specific behaviors.   A few years ago, that would have been dismissed as scientific nonsense, but now there are at least two other well documented cases of learned behavior.  First, the technique dolphins in The Florida Keys have learned for how to encircle and capture small fish (video here).   Second is the disgusting case of how seals in the South Atlantic have learned that penguins make good victims to rape and kill (video here).

Apologies for the fuzzy pictures below.  They were taken with the horrid built-in camera of my iPad.  The second picture shows the most amusing part of all.  Some of the crows seem to take delight in jumping up and down on the Windex wind vane, causing them to bend.  Others attempt to get a carnival ride on the spinning anemometer blades.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Our Rondy Experience

 Vero Beach, FL

It has been a while since the last blog post.  That is because we have been busy.

Friday-Sunday we spent at the Port Canaveral Yacht Club for the Westsail Rendezvous.   We had a great time.  The yacht club was wonderfully hospitible, and our hosts, Charley and Paivi were gracious.

What do people do at a rendezvous.  Most important, they sit around and tell each other stories.  Then, we visit each other's boats.   No two Westsails are alike, and it is impossible to see one without seeing some clever idea that would be fun to adopt.  Westsail owners lavish so much labor, attention, and ingenuity to make their vessels sail worthy, beautiful and comfortable.  That humbles us because by comparison we have done almost nothing to Tarwathie since buying her in 2005.

Then there is the eating, drinking and fun.  Lots of that.  It is amazing how a bunch of strangers can come together and becaome instant friends.   We had one owner who came from Massachusetts and another from Houston just for this rendezvous.

Below is a picture of the PCYC docks.  Tarwathie is second on the left.  Centered in the background is a Disney Cruise ship.   Part of the entertainment for me was to watch the cruise ships come and go.  They seem majestic as they move and spin using their modern propulsion pods.  There are 9 cruise ships that make Port Canaveral their home port. They are serviced by 4 passenger terminals.

But I must tell you about how overwhelmed Libby and I were at all the attention we got.   It seems that most of the W owners at the rondy were blog fans.  One of them, Peter, is what I call an archival fan; he went back to read every post from the start.  That's a lot of reading.   We were even surprised by people who came to meet us who were not part of the rondy.

Being shy, we were a bit embarrassed and humbled by the attention.  What did we do to deserve that.  Well, Peter put it into words better than I could.  Peter said, "You guys really nailed it.  You found what it takes to make you happy."   In other words, it wasn't because of high adventure, sailing around the world or anything like that.  It wasn't because of my theory about this blog that it is directed to people who want to live the cruising life.  It was because we have been successful at finding a retirement life that suits us so well, that we are happy almost all the time.   Our loyal readers don't necessarily share the same dreams we have in detail, but they are just nice people who are happy to see us being happy. That, is very touching.

Thank you Peter, and thank you all, we'll try to live up to that.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Swarms of Gremlims

Port Canaveral Yacht Club, FL
25 24.436 N 08 37.743 W

Ay ay ay.  I complained the other day about gremlins.  Little did I know that there were lots left over.  Yesterday:

  • When I checked the engine, I found lots of salt water in the pan. I took the hoses off the other day for an emergency fan belt replacement.   Now there was a leak.  It took 30 minutes to clean up the water, and get salt off the engine, another 30 to find the leak, and 15 minutes to fix it.
  • When done fixing the leak, I found that my left wrist was all cut up and scarred.  It seems that there was a sharp burr down where my hand was working that cut me again and again.
  • My cell phone died.  It has been acting up for a while; problems with charging.   But now it quit entirely. That cuts me off from the Internet.  Those of you who know how Internet addicted I am, know what a big crisis that is. I'm using the yacht club's wifi now.
  • The day became opressively hot.
  • Our chartplotter died, with the message "GPS module not repsonding."  That happened once last week on the St. Johns River, but turning it off, then on again fixed it.  This time that didn't work.  Since we were about to go to unfamiliar places, I wanted it to work.  I theorized that it was the hot temperatures.  I tried putting the GPS into the freezer.  That worked!  At least it worked for 15 minutes until it warmed up again.   This morning, in the cooler temperatures, it works fine.
  • When entering the yacht club, we had to drive down a narrow alley.  We did that at dead slow speed.  But yikes, I saw two men pushing a large sailboat out of their slip directly into my path, only 15 feet away.  If I stopped Tarwathie dead, we would loose steerage and be subject to the cross current. I scrambled for my horn. Oh no, our compressed horn died.  Libby and I shouted and the men saw us at the last second.  
  • When we got all tied up in a slip, I rushed to the shower to cool my body off.  I was feeling weak from heat exhaustion.
I hope that's enough gremlins for this weekend.  Friday-Sunday we will be enjoying the Westsail Rendezbous.   More than 25 people and 7 boats are expected.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Forming Place Memories

Daytona Beach, FL
29 07.600 N 080 57.942 W

I hate repeating myself on this blog, but after 2500+ posts it is getting difficult.  But ...

The stretch of the Florida ICW between St. Johns River and Fort Pierce, is very familiar to us.  We have been past this stretch 19 times, probably 3 times on the outside, and 16 times on the ICW.  It is not our home waters.  Lake Champlain is our home waters.  But it is very very familiar.

I'm curious about the cognitive aspects of "place memory."  I believe that it involves more than just memorizing the appearance of a place.   I think that it comes from associating one or more events with the place where those events happened.

As I cruise down the ICW, I can associate a memory with almost every twist or turn.   There was a boat aground here.   The wind heeled me over here.   I had to douse the sail on that turn.  I chatted with the skipper of another vessel on the radio here.  Lots of traffic on weekends there.  I wonder what life is like in that trailer park over there?   I recall thinking that lagoon was very pretty.

I'm not a cognitive scientist, so I can't express my theory scientifically.  But I bet that it is correct.  Time-thought-place are the three legs of forming place memories.

By the way, it has been very hot and very humid.  Thanks to a tip from Dave, we have been using new high-tech neck cooling towels.  You soak it in water, wring it out, snap it once, then put it around your neck.  It keeps your neck about 10 degrees cooler than ambient for up to an hour.  Since the blood vessels to your head are close to the surface there, that is a strategic place to cool your whole body.  It works.

I don't have a neck towel for my cell phone.  For the past month, it acts up when humid and refuses to recharge.   When we had the car, I learned that opening the phone, taking out the battery, then putting it on the dashboard defrost vent is the cure.  I give it 15 minutes of high heat, then 15 minutes of AC cool.  Then it works for a whole week.  On the boat, we don't have a defroster (thank God), so I have to store the phone in the rice jar every night.  That's a good cruising tip.  Rice dehydrates the air.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Libby's Pride and Joy

Near Saint Augustine, FL
29 55.113 N 081 18.088

We are killing time again.  We set the alarm for 0530 to assure that we get to Saint Augustine early enough for the 0730 Bridge of Lions opening.  Our ETA is 0740, so we'll have to kill time until 0830.  Such is life for boaters.

The picture shows Libby's new pride and joy.  It is a beautiful hand made rug.   Libby asked her friend Joelle from the vessel Miss Jo to make it for us. It was a massive effort.  Joelle said that it took her 5 hours per day for three weeks to complete.  It makes Tarwathie more elegant with this commissioned work of art.

My contribution was that on the first day we had the rug, I insisted on driving 10 miles to the store just to buy a can of Scotch Guard.  Libby applied it right away.   That very evening, we had Chris over for dinner and we spilled a whole glass of red wine!!!  The rug came out fine with no stains.

Technically, Libby said that the rug is mine.  It was my birthday present.  Ah yeah, sure.  That reminds me of when I bought an iPad and declared it to be Libby's iPad.  Have you ever gifted with an impure motive?  Don't answer that.

Monday, November 02, 2015

On The Road Again

The Tolomato River
30 13.615 N 081 25.006 W

Well, after many delays we are on the road again. (I like the sound of that phrase On The Road Again, it would make a good song title :-)  

We spent three nights at the free dock on Sister's Creek.  The reason for that is our friend Terri came up with a great idea.  Jen is going to fly down for a visit in December.   We left the car in care of the marina in Green Cove Springs, and told Jen to fly to JAX and then  get to GCS to pick up the car.   Terri's idea was to park the car at her neighbor's house which is close to JAX.  Terri, very kindly, will meet Jen at the airport.   To make a long story short, we delayed leaving until today to drive down to GCS with Larry and Terri to move the car.  Whew, that took a lot of words to describe.

It felt good to be back on the road again with Tarwathie, but after only one hour, Libby called me to the cockpit.  She said the engine instruments weren't working.  True, but the high temperature red light was on.  A quick check with my IR temperature sensor showed 206F.  Uh oh.  I looked over the side, there was plenty of raw water squirting out.    A few seconds later, I opened the engine compartment and spotted the cause.  It was a broken fan belt.  That took me only 30 minutes to replace and we are on our way once again.  Thank God for on-board spare parts.

Kudos to Libby for being so alert on watch.  I might not have noticed that red light, and I never hear audio alarms even with hearing aids.

So, our plan is to make it to the Westsail Rendezvous at Port Canaveral Yacht Club November 6-8.   It should work out well.  Anchor near Saint Augustine tonight, Daytona Beach Tuesday, Titusville, Wednesday, Banana River Thursday, and to the rendezvous Friday.  The only trouble is the lock at Canaveral which is closed for construction 6AM-6PM Monday-Friday.  Boo.  That means we'll have to pass the lock in the dark before dawn or after dusk.

p.s. I've had maybe 4 fan belts break in 55 years.  I do periodic visual inspections of the belts, but I've never seen any sign of wear before they break.   What exactly am I supposed to look for?